Study Guide

Henry V Family

By William Shakespeare

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This may be a big war play concerned with foreign affairs and national politics, but there's also a whole lot of family drama in <em>Henry V</em>. After all, both the English and French crowns are <em>supposed</em> to be inherited by lineal succession. (Lineal succession is a fancy way of saying that sons are supposed to inherit the throne from their dads.) It makes a lot of sense that the play is obsessed with all types of things that get passed down from fathers to sons – from entire kingdoms to character traits (like bravery and valor). In some cases, sons even inherit the burdens of their fathers' sins. Shakespeare also shows us how fragile family ties can be. During times of war, parents mourn for their lost sons, children are made into orphans, and wives are turned to grieving widows.

Questions About Family

  1. What is the Salic Law and how does it impact the events in the play?
  2. Explain why Henry V wants to marry Catherine.
  3. What happens to families whose loved ones go off to war in the play?
  4. Discuss how the sins of Henry V's father (Henry IV) revisit his son.

Chew on This

Although the play portrays Henry's wooing of Catherine as a romantic occasion, the couples' marriage is nothing more than a political alliance brokered between two kings.

<em>Henry V</em> suggests that war has long-lasting and devastating consequences for the families of soldiers.

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